Bus garage burns

No injuries, but lots of damage at Southwest Tour and Travel

Photo by Deb Gau Firefighters from multiple departments in Lyon County gathered to fight a blaze Tuesday morning at the Southwest Coaches/Southwest Tour and Travel building in Marshall. To try and get to fire in the roof of the building, responders used a forklift to pry up part of the steel roofing material. More photos on page 8B.

MARSHALL — What started as a local call became a job for all fire departments across Lyon County on Tuesday morning, when a large blaze destroyed part of Southwest Tour and Travel.

Marshall Fire Chief Quentin Brunsvold said everyone was able to evacuate the building without injury, but two buses were destroyed and the building’s roof collapsed.

“In my career, it’s probably one of the largest structure fires,” Brunsvold said.

Former fire chief Marc Klaith said the fire was one of the biggest reported in Marshall since the fire at the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University in 2002.

“This is pretty significant for the community, and a pretty significant loss,” Klaith said.

Fire departments from around the county assisted at the fire scene and provided tanker trucks to help supply water. The fire also drew a large civilian response, with Marshall residents and businesses donating food and water for firefighters at the scene.

“The community really rallies around when things like this happen,” Brunsvold said. He said he wanted to thank community members for the support they showed area firefighters and the Hey family, owners of Southwest Coaches, Inc., and Southwest Tour and Travel in Marshall.

Southwest Coaches and Southwest Tour and Travel have a history stretching back more than 40 years in the Marshall community. The business provides area school bus service, as well as motor coach charters and tour and travel services.

While an official cause for the fire has not yet been determined, Marshall firefighters received a chimney fire call around 7 a.m. at the Southwest Tour and Travel building. Brunsvold said the fire went into the roof and rafters of the building.

“The ceilings are very high, it’s steel siding, a steel roof,” which made it harder to get into the structure to find the fire, Brunsvold said. At one point, responders used a forklift to pry up part of the steel roofing on the building. Later on, the burning roof collapsed.

A call went out to all fire departments in Lyon County to bring tanker trucks to the scene. Brunsvold said the Southwest Chemical Assessment Team was also called in to supply some equipment. The CAT team was able to set up a heated tent, to offer some respite for responders working in cold and windy conditions.

School buses were out on their usual routes at the time of the fire. But as the morning went on, a line of parked buses formed along Travis Road, north of Minnesota Highway 23. Other charter buses could also be seen parked outside Southwest Tour and Travel, away from the burning building.

News of the fire, as well as photos of the blaze, hit social media on Tuesday morning. In a comment on Marshall Radio News’ Facebook page, Southwest Tour and Travel office manager Connie VanderPoel said everyone was safe, and the business was planning for normal bus operations.

Marshall Public Schools also sent out an e-mail to parents Tuesday, saying school bus service would continue as normal.

Members of the community turned out to offer support for firefighters and the Hey family, and local businesses gave food and supplies. Darren Cones, assistant director of store operations at the Marshall Hy-Vee location, said Hy-Vee donated bottled water, sandwiches and coffee for responders.

“Those guys have been working since early morning, and they don’t get a break,” Cones said of the decision to reach out to responders.

Brunsvold said the fire is under investigation by the Minnesota State Fire Marshal.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today